TABLET DESIGNER Apple stunned the technology industry in 2010 when it launched its first iPad and since then it has pretty much owned the top end of the market, with the iPad outselling its Android competition.
However, this changed in 2012 when Amazon and Google undercut the iPad, creating their cheaper and smaller Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 devices. Competition heated up even more when Microsoft announced its Surface Pro Windows 8 tablet, and then again when Google launched its first premier Android tablet, the Nexus 10. Apple responded by releasing upgraded versions of its latest iPad, making 2013's battle for tablet sales one of the most interesting so far.
However, with the evident lack of interest in Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system and Google's flagship Nexus 10 tablet beginning to show its age, we couldn't resist the chance to check whether Apple really needs to be concerned about its competition.
Design and Build
Apple devices have long been known for their high-end design and finish, so any tablet maker attempting to take on the iPad 4 is going to have a tough time competing with the firm's high design standards. However, it's apparent that both Samsung and Microsoft have taken pains to ensure that the appearance of their respective tablets can compete with that of the iPad.
The Nexus 10 has rounded corners and a slightly curved back, similar to Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. However, unlike the Note 10.1, the Nexus doesn't feature metal trim and instead is made entirely made of polycarbonate, which doesn't feel as nice to hold as either the Surface Pro or iPad 4, which are both predominantly made of metal.
That said, the Nexus 10 still feels solid and well built despite its plastic casing, but it's just not in the same league in terms of finish quality as the Surface Pro or the iPad 4.
Microsoft has produced a device in the Surface Pro tablet that not only has a stylish edge with its "dark titanium" brushed metal chassis but also feels very strong with robust build quality. The Surface Pro also has something that the iPad and the Nexus don't, a kickstand, so that you can use it at a desk with a keyboard without the need to buy an additional stand.
However, the iPad's satin effect anodised aluminium casing not only feels strong but looks and feels elegant, and it isn't until you hold all three tablets side-by-side that it becomes clear that its competitors aren't in the same league as Apple in terms of design and build quality.
In terms of size, the iPad 4 measures 241x186x9.4mm and weighs a portable 652g for the WiFi-only version, while the 4G model is only slightly heavier at 662g. The case has an aluminium back with a toughened glass display.
Despite being slightly longer, narrower and thinner than the iPad at 264x177x8.9mm, the Nexus 10 is lighter at 603g. Testing the two tablets, we found that the Nexus 10 feels noticeably lighter than the iPad 4.
Though the Nexus wins in weight, making it the easiest to carry around, its wide spacing between the screen and bezel makes it difficult to type while holding it, and you'll find you need to place it on a surface to comfortably type anything longer than a quick message or search query. This is not the case on the iPad 4, which has a very slim bezel.
The Surface Pro is the bulkiest of the three devices, measuring 13mm thick. It's also rather heavy for a tablet, weighing 907g. Nevertheless, its thickness adds to its overall sturdiness and makes it the strongest of the three tablets. However, a slimmer design would have been better for portability.
Although it's not the lightest or slimmest, the iPad 4 wins the design round for its high-end premium finish and ergonomics. They make it not only pleasant to hold for long periods but also earn you bragging rights for style.
Winner: iPad 4